Strange New World: Tech Picks of the Week


We've been thinking a lot about robots lately with the awesome new Terminator trailer on the Net and all the leaked images from the new "Transformers" movie.

It turns out there is a lot of other news in real-life robotics this week as well. There was also a shakeup at the top of the U.S. computer sales charts and some Twitter news. Here now, our picks of the week.

Robots, Robots, Everywhere

The Robobusiness 2009 conference is going on this weekend in Boston, proving that robots are not our future but our present. They already affect our daily lives in more ways than we realize and promise to do more soon.

And the markets for their application seem to have no bounds.

The elderly may be one potential market for robotics. Robosoft and SRI International are showing off the robuLAB10, which combines navigation software with a roving robot that can navigate its environment, follow its owner, and even assist in certain tasks, such as carrying items.

The company is offering it as a platform to developers who are looking to build robots for the home, particularly for elderly people who may need help around the house.

Kids born with mental disabilities are on the list as well. Research is being done to develop robots that help kids with autism socialize better.

On a more fun front, robotics looks as if it'll be part of gaming.

Tom Dusenberry, president of Robonica, is speaking about robots and entertainment at the conference. Back at ToyFair, we got a preview of Robonica's cool robot gaming technology, bound to be a hit next Christmas, but we were a bit bummed to learn that its introduction has been delayed. It's hoped that will be the only delay.

Of course, human/robot integration is always of interest. The cybernetic evolution of prosthetics is already a reality -- check out the iLimb -- but not always a high-profile subject.

Paralympics champion Aimee Mullins is looking to change that by publicly speaking about her collection of prosthetic legs. The subject is also catching the eye of designers and leading some fashionistas to ask the question: Do prosthetics need to look human?

Dell Loses Ground Against HP in Computer Sales

Meanwhile, robots are being touted as the next great explorers of our world and beyond. It's known as field robotics, and it's pretty cool stuff. Robots appear to be our best bet for advanced moon research. There are some big backers interested in this area of robotic development, too. Google's funding it in a major way through its Lunar X contest.

Google Moon? We can't wait.

Dude, You're getting Second Place!

According to two separate research studies by the Garter Group and IDC, HP has taken Dell's place as the computer sales leader in the United States. It looks like Dell lost ground in the last year, while sales of Hewlett Packard's low-priced laptops shot up. HP sold 4.23 million PCs here last year for a 27.7 percent market share, while Dell only 3.996 million units for a 26.2 percent share.

Overall sales were down in the United States about 10.2 percent. Selling PCs in these economic times is tough, but some analysts predict that we may have hit the bottom and sales will start to trend up in the next year.

We say the future of the PC is in netbooks! These low-cost computers are around $300 and are getting increasingly powerful. The best part is if they break, they are cheap enough that it won't break your bank to replace them.

Twitter, Twitter, Everywhere

If it seemed like everybody was talking about Twitter last month you were not imagining things.

Twitter had a huge month with 9.3 million visitors -- that's 5 million more visitors than the site had in February. We are the first to admit when Twitter first launched we laughed and figured that nobody would really have a need for it but boy were we wrong.

This was the right idea at the right time, smart phone technology has allowed everybody to surf the Web from anywhere and they are not only surfing but posting now.